Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ACORN: Bogus "Voter Fraud Charges" Aim to Camouflage Voter Suppression

Even if ACORN was up to no good -- which it's not -- it's not part of the Obama campaign.  Here are a friend's comments, with an ACORN press release below:
It’s that time of the election cycle again, where some factions will do anything to gain an advantage, no matter how much they’re poisoning the water we all have to drink.

Voter suppression in this country enrages me.  Whether it happens through suspiciously broken machines and understaffed voting locations in poor neighborhoods, or registered voters having their names purged for concocted reasons, there have been effective vote suppressions in almost every election.

A friend once told me of how he worked for the RNC in North Carolina years ago, and on election day (during the Jesse Helms victories over Harvey Gantt engineered by Lee Atwater) they would ‘prank’ call the Democrat volunteers, who were standing by to drive elderly to the polls in vans, and give them bogus addresses to send them outside of town. He knew for a fact that they largely succeeded in tying up the only transportation for these old folks who waited most of the day to be driven to vote.

Now, the group that is trying to register the most disenfranchised voters, is itself being attacked, so set up future fraud charges and contest results.
It’s happening against ACORN, with the cynical belief that if you repeat something often enough it becomes a legit talking point.

Some of you may not even know what ACORN is.  ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities.
They do things like try to encourage poor minorities to learn about the political process, and understand the foreclosure crisis.

They have never been convicted of anything, despite many attempts to undermine and make false charges against them. Gonzales dismissed U.S. Attorneys (who were Republicans!) because they found NO evidence of ANY wrongdoing by ACORN and refused to prosecute.

The current charges are about a small amount of forged applications to register — a few workers were trying to get money from ACORN, not defraud the process. Not a single phony registration was granted which would have enabled a fraudulent vote, because ACORN does such thorough work and vets all its own applications. AND they turn in any problems themselves to the election boards.

Just take a moment to read their press releases so that if you’re around someone who mindlessly repeats this charge (when they pause from complaining about Bill Ayers), you will at least know much more than they do.

There is no more telling or sadder spectacle about partisan politics in this country than watching what the process of trying to win the presidency has done to John McCain. HE SPOKE AT A 2006 ACORN EVENT, and told the COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS in the room that “the people in this room are what makes America special.”

We all saw how Guiliani and Palin mocked community organizers at the Republican convention.  Now, to pre-emptively set up complaints about voter fraud on election day, McCain made a point of repeating the charges during the last debate against Obama, and calling ACORN “perhaps the greatest voter fraud perpetrated in the history of America.” Forget about the 50,000 actual African-Americans who were purged from the polls in 2000. Apparently, a few thousand registration cards with “Mickey Mouse” on them, which would NEVER be approved, are much worse.

(But what’s really bothering the Republicans is that 65% of all newly-registered voters have polled for Obama.)

Don’t let this slander of ACORN take hold. Pass it on.
Bogus "Voter Fraud Charges" Aim to Camouflage Voter Suppression
October 10, 2008

ACORN has just completed the largest, most successful nonpartisan voter registration drive in U.S. history. We helped 1.3 million low-income, minority and young voters across the country register to vote.

Unfortunately, just as in 2006, that success in bringing people into the democratic process, have been greeted with unfounded accusations to disparage our work and help maintain the status quo of an unbalanced electorate.

After a similar spate of charges against ACORN in 2006, we learned that then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had fired Republican U.S. Attorneys because they refused to prosecute ACORN and other voter assistance groups on trumped up fraud charges. This was the heart of the U.S. Attorney-gate scandal that led Karl Rove, Gonzales and other top Department of Justice officials to resign. Because the press didn’t catch on until long after the election, it was part of a successful strategy to create an unfounded specter of voter fraud and to suppress voting.

Key Facts:

1. In order to help 1.3 million people register to vote, we hired more than 13,000 registration assistance workers. As with any business or agency that operates at this scale, there are always some people who want to get paid without really doing the job, or who aim to defraud their employer. Any large department store will have some workers who shoplift.

2. Any large voter registration operation will have a small percentage of workers who turn in bogus registration forms, Their goal clearly is not to cast a fraudulent vote. It is simply to defraud their employer, ACORN, by getting a paycheck without earning it. ACORN is the victim of this fraud – not the perpetrator.

3. In nearly every case that has been reported , it was ACORN that discovered the bad forms, and called them to the attention of election authorities, putting the forms in a package that identified them in writing as suspicious, encouraging election officials to investigate, and offering to help with prosecutions. We are required by law to turn in all forms, but instead of just turning them in and figuring that it is the responsibility of the board of elections to figure out which are valid, we spend millions of dollars verifying that forms are valid, and then separate out those that are suspicious.

4. This has nothing to do with “voter fraud” – nothing at all to do with anyone trying to cast an extra vote. There has never been a single reported instance in which bogus registration forms have led to anyone voting improperly. To do that, they would have to show up at the polls, prove their identity as all first-time registrants must, and risk jail. The people who turned in these forms did so not because they wanted an extra vote, but because they didn’t care enough to make sure eligible people got to vote at all.

5. When a department store calls the police to report a shoplifting employee, no one says the department store is guilty of consumer fraud. But for some reason, when ACORN turns voter registration workers over to the authorities for filling out bogus forms, it gets accused of “voter fraud.” This is a classic case of blaming the victim; indeed, these charges are outrageous, libelous, and often politically motivated.

6. Similar attacks were launched against ACORN and other voter registration organizations in 2004 and 2006. The bogus charges were at the heart of the U.S. Attorney-gate scandal that led to the resignations of Karl Rove, Attorney General Ablerto Gonzales and other top Justice Department Officials. It turned out that it was the charges that were fraudulent, and that they were part of a systematic partisan agenda of voter suppression. Republican U.S. Attorneys David Iglesias (NM), Todd Graves (MO), and John McKay (WA) all were fired primarily because they refused to prosecute similar bogus charges of “voter fraud.” Another U.S. Attorney, Bradley Schlozman, who did politicize prosecutions against former ACORN canvassers, was forced to acknowledge under cross examination by the Senate Judiciary Committee that ACORN was the victim of fraud by its employees and ACORN had caught the employees and had identified them to law enforcement.

7. The goals of the people orchestrating these attacks are to distract ACORN from helping people vote and to justify massive voter suppression. That’s the real voter fraud; the noise about a small fraction of the forms ACORN has turned in is meant to get the press and public take their eyes off the real threat, while those hurling the charges are stealing people’s right to vote in broad daylight. They have already tried to prevent Ohio from registering voters at its early voting sites. In Michigan, they planned to use foreclosure notices to challenge thousands of voters. And if this year is like past years, they are preparing to use this so-called voter fraud to justify massive challenges to voters in minority precincts on Election Day.

The Details:

Fact: ACORN has implemented the most sophisticated quality-control system in the voter engagement field but in almost every state we are required to turn in ALL completed applications, even the ones we know to be problematic.

Fact: ACORN flags in writing incomplete, problem, or suspicious cards when we turn them in,. Unfortunately, some of these same officials then come back weeks or months later and accuse us of deliberately turning in phony cards. In many cases, we can actually prove that these are the same cards we called to their attention.

Fact: Our canvassers are paid by the hour, not by the card . ACORN has a zero-tolerance policy for deliberately falsifying registrations, and in the cases where our internal quality controls have identified this happening we have fired the workers involved and turned them in to election officials and law-enforcement.

Fact: No criminal charges related to voter registration have ever been brought against ACORN or partner organizations. Convictions against individual former ACORN workers have been accomplished with our full cooperation, using the evidence obtained through our quality control and verification processes — evidence which in most cases WE called to the attention of authorities

Fact: Most election officials have recognized ACORN’s good work and praised our quality control systems. Even in the cities where election officials have complained about ACORN, the applications in question represent less than 1% of the thousands and thousands of registrations ACORN has collected.

Fact: Our accusers not only fail to provide any evidence, they fail to suggest a motive: there is virtually no chance anyone would be able to vote fraudulently, so there is no reason to deliberately submit phony registrations. ACORN is committed to ensuring that the greatest possible numbers of people are registered

ACORN will not be intimidated, we will not be provoked, and in this important moment in history we will not allow anyone to distract us from these vital efforts to empower our constituencies and our communities to speak for themselves.

ACORN Statement Regarding Las Vegas Voter Registration
October 08, 2008

Over the past year, ACORN has worked hard to help over 80,000 people in Clark County register to vote.

Hundreds of canvassers and volunteers have worked for months talking to citizens from Nevada’s most disenfranchised communities and encouraging them to exercise their right to participate in our democracy. Their work has been tireless—they deserve a great deal of credit for spending days in the hot sun at public places from parks to community centers to shopping centers helping citizens complete voter registration applications.
Most of the 80,000 registrations they have collected and turned in to election officials come from young people, low income people and minorities—the very people whose voices are too often left out of our electorate.

As part of our nonpartisan voter registration program, ACORN staff reviews every single application submitted by our canvassers. Special, dedicated staff makes up to three phone calls attempting to reach the voter listed on EVERY SINGLE CARD before they are turned in to verify the information. Our callers verify the information on the cards before turning them in to election officials to make sure that as many new voters as possible get on the rolls and to make sure that all of our voter registration workers are doing the high quality work they are trained to do.

While the vast majority of our voter registration canvassers do a great job, there have been several times over the past ten months that our Las Vegas Quality Control program has identified a canvasser who appears to have knowingly submitted a fake or duplicate application in order to pad his or her hours.

Anytime ACORN quality control staff has identified a suspicious application, we have separated that application out and flagged it for election officials. We turn any suspicious applications to election officials separately, along with a cover sheet identifying the nature of the problem and an offer to provide election officials with the information they would need to pursue an investigation or prosecution of the individual. (Note that civic organizations are required by law to turn over ANY signed voter registration applications even when they are known to have problems). We immediately dismiss any employees we suspect of submitting fraudulent registrations.

It was surprising that law enforcement officials appeared suddenly at our Las Vegas offices Tuesday, because ACORN and its attorneys have already been proactive in providing information about problematic cards and any employee suspected of misconduct. In July, ACORN staff and our attorney set up a meeting with Clark County elections officials and a representative of the Secretary of State’s office to urge them to take action on information ACORN had provided. Since then, and as recently as September 29^th , ACORN has provided officials with copies and—in some cases—second copies of many of the personnel records and the "problem card packages" and cover sheets with which we originally identified the problem cards.

ACORN is a community organization dedicated to making everyone’s voice count in the vital public policy debates in our country. Helping citizens become active voters is a crucial part of our work to help build a fairer and more inclusive democracy. We will continue with this important work by encouraging every eligible voter to the polls this November.


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